Netflix Weekend Outages Raise Question of Hiring Weekend Help

by on July 18, 2011

After suffering through that Mariners vs. Rangers game yesterday–interspersed with news of the Women’s FIFA World Cup Finals–I got home and settled in for some Netflix escapism. Not so fast.

Around 4 p.m. (PDT), Netflix streaming began to fail for a substantial portion of customers–judging from the Twitter complaints, if you were watching through Xbox or Playstation or Roku, you were hit hardest.

Some customers were prompted to change their passwords, though that usually failed. (I could log in via Xbox, but couldn’t watch anything–even Search didn’t work. Curiously, I could still access and watch Netflix from my laptop.)

As it happens, Netflix seems not equipped to deal with a weekend outage. Their Netflixhelps Twitter account is only staffed Monday through Friday. On the weekend you’re advised to call a single phone number: “Phone support is available 24/7.” Depends on what you mean by support: during a widespread outage, all you got was a busy signal or, if lucky, a recorded message saying that call volumes were high and you should try later.

Downrightnow.com's assessment of the outage

The outage continued through the night. At about 9:30 p.m., Netflixhelps roused itself to announce that the problem had penetrated Netflix consciousness: “For those of you having difficulty streaming tonight, our apologies – we’re aware of the issue and working to fix it ASAP.”

A little after 11 p.m., the problem was declared fixed, though the internet believes it lasted through most of the night, and a recent Netflix tweet from this morning reads: “Some PS3 users are reporting Cannot Connect to Netflix errors – we’re looking into it.” So maybe fixed is not quite the right word.

Netflix went down on June 20, also on a weekend. That was blamed on a technical glitch. Wishful speculation again last night was that this could be a Denial of Service retribution for their recent price hike, but so far Netflix has offered no guidance on what the problem was.

Whatever else is true, you couldn’t have asked for a better way to exacerbate upset over their recent push toward online-streaming-only subscription. Down on Sunday night? Four to five hours of outage before telling customers it’s not their problem? Telling customers the problem is fixed when it isn’t? Netflix should be grateful Twitter wasn’t down last night, as they’d apparently have left customers in the dark the entire time.

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